To abstain is to not do something… that can be as simple as not voting, or not eating watermelon, or not doing drugs… and it’s always good to abstain from things that are harmful to you or someone else, or to society in general. It’s not good to abstain from voting all the time, but there are certain instances when abstaining from a particular vote at a meeting is warranted because you don’t have enough information or the outcome directly affects you.
In regard to abstaining from actions or behaviors that are harmful, it is very hard to understand why there are people who disagree on such abstinence! Teaching abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage as part of sex education in junior high and high school in our nation has been termed “not good” or in some places “forbidden” especially if they want to keep the Federal grants awarded to them for preventing teen pregnancies. What part of this word abstinence don’t you understand???
Abstinence is a normal, commonly used avoidance tactic! If one doesn’t want to get burned, abstain from using matches. If one doesn’t want to go to jail, abstain from illegal or unlawful activity. If one doesn’t want to lose control of his or her inhibitions, abstain from drugs and/or alcohol. If one doesn’t want to gain weight, abstain from eating sweets and exercise more. The list goes on and on. But why does abstinence get the bad rap in the media as a way to avoid teen pregnancy? Some say that teens might find themselves in a situation and then not be prepared with a condom! Condoms aren’t really “safe sex” anyway – people can get many STDs from skin-to-skin contact and that latex item covers only one body part! Abstinence is not merely about avoiding the activity, but more about reserving sex for the one life-long relationship a person wants to have.
There have been many statistics in the past several years from evidence-based studies that prove the success of abstinence education in lowering teen pregnancy and in reducing the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases. Teens themselves have admitted that having strong family support helps them to keep their decision to remain abstinent until marriage. Studies have shown that many teenagers keep that commitment for 18 months or longer – and some much longer because, even before the 18 months pass, they have renewed it after another season of abstinence education. Abstinence education needs to be taught at more than one age level to give reinforcement and support to those who make these healthy decisions.
Now over half of all teens in the US have never had sex as compared to 10 years ago when the percentages were turned around and more than half of teens were having sex. As an abstinence educator for nearly 15 years, I know first-hand that many teen girls who found themselves pregnant wish they had waited. They realized the resulting consequences of raising a child, or the emotions they would have to endure when considering adoption or abortion, were much harder than they could have imagined before getting pregnant. Although God has a purpose for each and every life, doing things in the right order (dating, marriage and then sex) would have allowed them much more freedom in their teen years.
Freedom is the operative word when talking about abstinence. If individuals choose abstinence, they have freedom from all the consequences of the harmful activity as well as enjoying the benefits from waiting to pursue their personal gratification at a better time in their lives. There are even more studies proving that married people have better sex, are happier, and have more possibilities to gain wealth. Why not wait and have the best???
Shirley Briggeman, former Exec. Dir. of Crossroads Pregnancy Center (Auburn Hills, MI) currently resides in NW Ohio and has worked among teens and parents in presenting abstinence education for the past 15 years.